Relating to my educational advocacy of paid high school study abroad programs, would it be better for students to read more nonfiction, read more fiction, to travel abroad, or to watch good TV. Economist Tyler Cowen asks Michael Orthofer, book reviewer and author of the blog site “the complete review” (here), a similar question about what would be good for American adults. The answers are surprising. From the transcript (here) of the interview video (minute 4:50):
COWEN: If we take American citizens, who are not necessarily the people who read you, but at the margin, we could give them more nonfiction, we could give them more travel, we could give them more fiction, or we could actually give them more of some really good TV, which of those things are we rooting for them to do more of, at the margin?
ORTHOFER: At the margin, I would think travel. I think really the experience of the foreign place would be the most benefit, because I think most people really don’t get that, don’t have that opportunity. I don’t think they need more TV. I think TV is pretty well covered in this country [laughs]. Everyone gets their fill or the proper — or probably more than the proper — dose.
But I think fiction is up there. I think fiction is an important part of it as well. And it’s such an easy part to get to, as well, so I think people should take advantage of that. In that sense the marginal cost is relatively low, since you can just go to your local library, to the local bookstore, and you have such a wide selection.
COWEN: See, I’m actually inclined to give them the marginal dose of TV.
COWEN: I think people absorb it and process it better. And the fact that they watch a lot of TV means they’re good at it. You’re very good at reading fiction. You absorb it and process it very well. So TV shows really stick with people. If, at the margin, you’re giving people quality TV, it might even be my choice over travel.
A lot of people come away from travel alienated. They don’t always enjoy travel. They may vaguely feel it was good for them. They had to make too many decisions, and they argue with each other.